Need for speed

A snowmobiler clocks in at 124 mph at the Falls International Speed Run Against Cancer last year on the ice in front of Thunderbird Lodge. The fastest speed of the day was 129 mph, surpassing 2017’s record of 107.

After what feels like weeks of below-zero weather, with enough intermittent snow requiring removal, the 11th annual Falls International Speed Run Against Cancer could provide a reprieve.

The speed run raises money for a community program that assists people with the costs of traveling for cancer treatment.

The event, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday on Rainy Lake ice outside the Thunderbird Lodge, is a way to measure the top speed of snowmobiles in a safe and legal way, said Jim Bigler, president of the International Voyageurs Snowmobile Club, which partners with the Thunderbird Lodge in the event.

"It can happen to any of us," he said of the need for cancer treatment that often requires people to leave Borderland. "And think about over the years how much gas costs have gone up and down. It's an important factor for us."

Earlier events collected money toward dialysis treatment in the community. That money remains with Koochiching County officials, who have attempted to study and gather information about the need for local dialysis.

However, Bigler said as the club considered another need it could assist with a fundraiser, the club's treasurer mentioned the gas card program.

"We thought that's a heck of a neat idea, and we're helping local people, he said.

Meanwhile, the speed run began with the gift of a radar gun from former Falls Police Chief Chris Raboin.

"Everyone is wanting to measure their speed," Bigler said. "This is a good event to raise money for a worthy cause and also get people to come out and have fun."

Prizes are awarded for the fastest runs in five classes: 600cc and under; 700cc; 800cc; 1000cc; open. Three runs costs $10, and additional donations will be accepted.

Race Director Joe Mershon takes care of the details on the ice, and Thunderbird Lodge staff make sure people are comfortable, added Bigler.

The club has a permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for the event, and it's insurance OKs it. Only stock snowmobiles are allowed, Bigler added.

Temperatures are forecast for about 13 and sunny, which Bigler said sounds about right for the event.

"I think it will be a good turnout," Bigler said. "With this cold weather, people are excited to get out and do something."

And, he noted, the weather could turn quickly ending the snowmobiling season in a couple weeks.

"We've got snow and people are happy," he said. "Everybody is talking about it."

Bigler encouraged people to check the club's website at and Facebook page for updates on trail conditions.

And, he urged people traveling by sled to the Saturday event to use care.

"With the amount of people on the trails, be careful, watch your speeds," he said, noting there are crossroads plowed on Rainy Lake. "We don't want to see anybody hurt."

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